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Front Page

In This Issue

· The First, First Amendment

· The Constitution does not mention Parties

· Debt and Balance sheets

· Our National Turmoil (a reprint from vol.3 issue 2)

· Scatter the House

THE FIRST, FIRST AMENDMENT

ARTICLE I, SECTION 2., REQUIRES CHANGE!

See my proposal on representation

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

The branch of our federal government to which the Framers of our Constitution gave priority is now vastly different than they intended that it should be.  Rapid population growth and extensions of the suffrage have made it impossible for Representatives to have the kinds of relationships with most of their constituents that the Framers anticipated.  Authors of THE FEDERALIST saw “dependence on the people” as “the primary control on the government” (No. 51).  They further wrote that “it is particularly essential” the Representatives “have an immediate dependence on and an intimate sympathy with, the people” (No.52).

 

Initially, with adult white males making up the electorate, and with some states making exceptions to them, the election roles were slim.  That was especially true because the first census found most Americans to be less than 16 years old.

 

The first, First Amendment, i.e. the proposal that Madison and the First Congress submitted for ratification by the states, provided for increasing the numbers of Representatives as populations increased.  But that was not ratified.  Early Congresses did try to make allowances for increases of Representatives as population grew and voting privileges were extended, but the rapidity and extent of such increases quickly made House membership inadequate.  Now, with the limit to House membership fixed at 435, the ratio of constituents to Representatives continues to grow.  Also, legislative rules that allow many thousands of detailed laws require that Representatives be present in Washington much of the time.  Where once it was possible for Representatives to be “intimately sympathetic” with a few thousands of individuals, they are now expected to be emotionally simpatico with HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS.

 

The declining ratio of Representatives to eligible voters is probably the greatest distortion  of a major part of our Constitution’s original intent that our nation has suffered.  I contend that the most practical solution is to make the participation of Representatives a referendum-like procedure, with participation while they reside within their many more, but less populous, districts.  It implies that they will not deal in many details, but will have final approval, or rejection, of major proposals coming to them mainly from the President or Senate.  Decentralizing the final approval of most of the nation’s greatest decisions would also encourage some decentralizing of our information system..  And, it would facilitate a national security system that would be less vulnerable to a limited nuclear strike.

WHAT OUR CONSTITUTION DOES NOT MENTION—PARTIES

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

Before the new American nation had out-lived the Presidency of George Washington, political parties, Federalist plus Anti-Federalist or Democrat, had appeared. And, even before popular elections of presidential electors and Senators, parties were working to assure that the three branches were usually in synch. Off-year elections of Representatives created some partisan divisions, as did the six year terms of Senators.  But, by the first presidential election in which as many as 9 or 10% of Americans participated, Andrew Jackson’s in 1828, partisanship was assuring that any winner of a popular majority and the Presidency would get also a majority likely to support him in the House of Representatives.

 

That partisan unity of President, House of Representatives, and (often) the Senate prevailed until 1956.  In a year that saw President Eisenhower win by a landslide, the House of Representatives was won by Democrats.  Perhaps “Ike’s” recent heart attack and the WWII basis of his fame were responsible.  The “anomaly” was not much noticed.

 

Actually, the shift may have been more than an anomaly.  Later Republican Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and GHW Bush won four popular majorities, two of them landslides, but not one Republican House of Representatives.  Meanwhile, Presidents Kennedy (49.7%), Johnson (61.7%), and Carter (50.1%) saw nothing except House majorities of their own party. 

 

Recently, Republican President George Bush did enjoy some small majorities of his own party in the House.  And, Democrat President Obama, though greeted initially by a Democrat House, lost it in a particularly severe off-year reversal of partisanship.

 

To what should such trends be attributed?  See Perspectives for 2012.

 Debt and Balance Sheets

A PERSPECTIVE FOR 2012

See Fox News Poll

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

By the 1960s television was the dominant news medium in America.  Meanwhile, many thousands of “scholars” were being minted to teach the growing millions of college students.  An information system that had been dominated by owners (including churches) and advertisers was acquiring national influence and an enhanced vision of its own “rights”.  It wanted “changes.”  With haste, and limited creative vision of its own, it accepted reversals of past values and behavior as “progressive.”

 

By the advent of the twenty-first century, the costs of such haste were becoming obvious.  And new elements in the media, i.e. talk radio and cable television, were helping to make the public aware of costs, in human lives as well as in trillions of dollars, of the earlier decades of “progress.”

 

This nation’s balance sheet is now public issue number one, and the need for balance extends to much more than economics.

     OUR NATIONAL POLITICAL

TURMOIL

A reprint from 2010

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

President Obama says that he was swept into the Presidency by the same public reaction that made a Republican, Scott Brown, the new Senator from the very blue state of Massachusetts.  Ridiculous?  Mostly so, but not entirely.  America’s confusion has roots deeper than most Americans, especially those who’ve become voters since the 1960’s are likely to be aware of.  We have suffered more antagonism than is necessary between private and public sectors.

 

In the PUBLIC OPINION QUARTERLY, fall 1944, journalism professor Frank Luther Mott wrote that the reason for so much to-do about the press is that Franklin D. Roosevelt was the only President in the last fifty years to have ridden a big popular wave without corresponding support from a majority of newspapers. 

 

That was soon followed by The Commission on Freedom of the Press, composed mainly of leading academics, and by a SELL AMERICA Campaign organized by major business advertisers, and promising to sell America and its bulwark American business back to the people.  Neither of those accomplished much except to bracket the problem.  For a couple of generations the growing mass media, mostly print, had been deeply influenced politically by its corporate ownership and major advertisers.  Political parties were beginning to lose influence, but the media were political and heavily Republican.

 

Change was not far away.  Part of FDR’s success was due to the new medium, radio, and he used that very effectively.  Television was the rapidly growing gorilla. As a Democrat seeking nomination to the House of Representatives, in 1954, one problem I (we) faced was that the closest major television station with an audience of consequence was in Cleveland, and prohibitively expensive because most of its audience were outside our district.  Mrs. Dorothy Fuldheim, “First Anchor Lady of Television,” invited each of us for a brief interview.  Other than her courtesy, I was most impressed by the very shabby facilities of WEWS, then, the only major station between New York City and Chicago.  A larger surprise came later.  I had had good local press coverage, but seldom encountered persons who mentioned it.  Long after I had lost the election , however, I was still meeting people who remarked “I know you; I saw you on Mrs. Fuldheim’s program.”

 

By the 1960s, a sharp reversal in the partisan and economic slant of the press was becoming obvious.

 

After the 1936 election, a popular joke was that FDR had found a way to balance the budget.  He would sell Maine and Vermont (the only states that voted against him) to Canada.  Perhaps Nixon could have done something similar after 1972.  Only Massachusetts, plus D.C. and both Houses of Congress went against him.

 

                                  SCATTER THE HOUSE

See my Proposal

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

Many years ago, i.e. about 1950, as I began teaching American Government, I was struck by the problem of Representatives who spent most of their time in Washington, and dealing with details of voluminous legislation. They had less and less time for one on one discussions with rapidly growing numbers of constituents. I soon came up with the idea of disassembling the House. .

 

When I offered the idea to students, they quickly came up with reasons why that would be impractical and unlikely to be adopted.  HARPER’S editors admitted that they were intrigued by the idea, but would not publish my proposal.  When my article was published in early1960, by SOUTH ATLANTIC QUARTERLY, and I sent out copies, to senior political scientists; comments that I got back were much like those that I had already heard.  No one raised any serious objections to my facts. I contended back then, as I do now that the need would become increasingly evident with time. 

 

Time is rapidly running out, for me if not for my proposal.  I mean by this no lack of respect for Speaker Boehner or for many of his colleagues.